Sometimes, you just gotta be there and if you can’t make it to Valencia for Las Fallas, our guest writer and expert from Valencia, entices you into the Las Fallas experience. Armchair travel is second best. As primers for Part 3, read Zach’s other posts on Las Fallas, Part 1 – What To Expect and Part 2 -Fallas, When, Where, and How. Zach is detailed in his writing combining historical perspectives and how to’s. His reporting is excellent and will prepare you for this stunning celebration or Costa Blanca holidays in general. Part 3 covers where to go and what we all love: Spanish food. I am in for the fried pumpkin dough dessert. March 15-19.
By Zach Frolich
There will be an award contest for the best 3-6 fallas in several different categories, the main ones being, Best Falla Mayor, Best Falla Infantil, and Best Light Display. So different casals put their focus in different features of their falla each year. So that you don’t have to go to all 600+ fallas, here I’ll provide you with the usual top ones:
Must see fallas:
1) Campanar – Out of the way, north of the River Turia, but it usually has the biggest budget of all the fallas in the city
2) Sueca – In the Russafa neighborhood
3) Convento-Jerusalén – In the neighborhood just to the west of the North Train Station
4) Ayuntamiento – At the Plaza del Ayuntamiento
5) Na Jordana – located at the edges of El Carmen next to the River Turia park
Must see light displays:*
*These are all right next to each other in the Russafa neighborhood, which is why you should go there at night!
With all the walking you are going to work up an appetite, which is why I recommend you look for these locals foods…
• Bocata de blanc i negre: The unofficial official food of fallas. It is a sandwich that all the fallero tents cook for their members, which has “morcilla” (black pudding, a.k.a. blood sausage), “longaniza” (a white sausage) and a local Valencian variety of haba beans.
• Bunyols de carabassa: This seasonal fried pumpkin dough dessert, which is a typical street vendor snack (“churrería”) is a staple of fallas. (Many stands will offer churros, which are really from Madrid, but popular with the guiris (foreigners).)
… and then there are the class Valencian dishes to try while there.
• Paella (and all those other rice dishes): This is your chance to try it where it’s from, so go for it!
• Hortxata: Valencia’s most famous local drink. This is a sweet milky white drink made from a bean plant. It will be technically out of season, though you will probably be able to find places that offer it, and you should try it if you can!
• “Agua de València”: Not really water. This local orange-juice infused cocktail, which is kind of like a mimosa, you’ll have to order at a bar. But it’s worth it, since Valencia is all about oranges! (You’ll see a lot of mojitos and caipirinhas being sold at stands. These are not at all traditional drinks here, just popular with the many foreigners in town for the festival.)
Here I am eating the typical staple during Fallas - “un bocata blanc i negre”. I’m also dressed in typical fallas attire with the blue and white “mocador” (“pañuelo” in Spanish, or scarf) and “blusó” (“blusón”, a traditional over-shirt spectators would wear).
Fallas is not quite like New Orlean’s Mardi Gras, since it’s more of a family-friendly event and not limited to just one famous street or neighborhood. And it’s not exactly like Carnival, since it’s not a show or a parade, but rather a four-day street festival.
This is why I’ve stopped trying to explain Fallas to my American friends, and just tell them to come here and check it out for themselves. You’ll love it!
Zach Frohlich, originally from Austin, Texas, has been traveling between Spain and the U.S. for over a decade, and settled and is living in Valencia for the last couple of years. He is a historian by training and married to a Spaniard. He shares cultural insights and background on Spain at: www.nothemingwaysspain.blogspot.com
Holidays to the Costa Blanca are easy to arrange. Fly from Madrid to Valencia or take the fast train from Barcelona to Valencia. If going for Las Fallas it’s best to book in advance.